Census records provide us with decennial snapshots of the lives of Atcherley sisters Anne, Hannah and Margaret from 1841 up to the end of the 1800s. These and other records tell us that by 1851 the sisters had moved from their native parish of Baschurch to College Hill in Shrewsbury, and that they remained there, unmarried and living comfortably on money from land and investments, for the rest of their lives. But what did they do in between the censuses? Well, for one thing they went on holidays to the seaside!
In Shropshire Arms and Lineages, published 1869, Frederick Kittermaster described the subjects of this story as follows:
Atcherley, The Misses, of College Hill Court, Shrewsbury, daugs. of the late John Atcherley, of Stanwardine, who died 1847, and who was representative of the family, and descended from Thomas Acheley or Atcherley, of Stanwardine, temp. Hen. VII., the father of Sir Roger Atcherley, Lord Mayor of London 10 Hen. VIII.
Anne, Hannah and Margaret Atcherley were baptised on 14 November 1799, 11 June 1801 and 7 April 1817 respectively, at Baschurch All Saints. They were three of the ten children born to John Atcherley and his wife Anne (née Parton) at Stanwardine in the Fields. Five of their siblings (four girls and one boy) had died in infancy or early childhood (see MIs at Baschurch All Saints (3)). Their two surviving sisters, Sarah and Martha, had both married by 1841 and the census for that year recorded the three spinsters with their parents. By that time the family had moved from Stanwardine to nearby Weston Lullingfields.
Between then and 1851 the sisters relocated to the county town of Shrewsbury. My guess is that this happened following the death of their father John in 1847, or perhaps after their mother Anne passed away in 1849. Anne, Hannah and Margaret had (along with their married sisters no doubt) each received a generous inheritance from their farming father – including, it would appear, shares of the rents and profits from his land. The 1851 census shows the trio as landed proprietresses. In later years they were recorded as fund holders or annuitants, or living on “income derived from property”.
The money derived from land (and other investments) paid for the Shrewsbury home of ‘The Misses Atcherley’ (they were referred to as such not only by Frederick Kittermaster but also by the compilers of directories covering Shropshire such as the 1863 Post Office Directory and the 1870 Kelly’s Directory). The services of one or two servants were funded by it too: from censuses it appears that a cook and a housemaid usually formed part of this Atcherley household. And it covered the cost of holidays away from home.
We will probably never know the full extent of the Misses Atcherley’s sojourns away from Shrewsbury. However, thanks to the visitors lists printed in the newspapers of certain seaside towns, we know about a couple of their holiday destinations. One was Aberystwyth, on the Cardiganshire coast of Wales. Back in 1815 there were just two horse-drawn coaches a week running between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury (a journey of around 75 miles) during the summer, and one a week in winter. By 1826, thanks to improved roads and the town’s increasing popularity as a coastal resort, coaches were making the journey in one direction or the other on most days of the week during the summer season. The author of a guide to Aberystwyth wrote that “It bids fair to rival the first of the English Marine Bathing Towns.” Elsewhere in his book he explained why:
It is impossible on entering Aberystwyth, to catch the first glimpse of it, unaccompanied with the most vivid sensations of wonder and delight. It lies embosomed between its fostering hills, in a sweet valley, threaded by the Rheidol, close to the margin of the sea. Unlike the tame and monotonous scenery that characterizes many Watering Places, Beauty and Variety seem the twin Goddesses of the place; or, if a third be admitted, the presiding Deity of the bracing breeze, bright-eyed Health, completes the trio. […]
In addition to the convenience and excellence of the bathing, the salubrious air, and surpassing beauty of the country, Aberystwyth possesses, like Scarborough and Brighton, an advantage over many places on the coast, that of a fine chalybeate spring in its immediate vicinity, the use of which is applicable to, and will much assist in, the cure of many diseases for which the sea is visited.
The first visit made to Aberystwyth by the Atcherley sisters (or at least, the first one I am aware of) took place in 1859. They would have travelled at least part of the way there (if not the whole way) by way of a good old-fashioned horse-drawn coach. The railways had extended into Shrewsbury from various directions from the end of the 1840s (starting with a connection to Chester in 1848), killing off most of the coaching services along those routes in the process. However in 1859 it was not possible to travel all the way from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth by train, and this remained the case until 1864.
The list of visitors to the town published in the Aberystwyth Observer of 16 July 1859 included the following (I have combined two parts of the list into a single image):
The Misses Atcherley of Shrewsbury were staying at Brynmor House, along with a number of other guests – some of whom were known to them. Mr. J. A. Jebb of Leominster was John Atcherley Jebb, a nephew of the sisters, the oldest son of Martha Jebb (nee Atcherley). Aged 22, John was manager of the Leominster and Kington Railway at that time. The following year he would be appointed traffic manager of the Bahia and San Francisco Railway in Brazil! Miss Jebb of “Prescott Villa” may have been one of John’s older sisters, then resident at Prescott in Baschurch parish. And Miss Jane Emily ‘Barnett’ of Wikey House (or Wykey House, in the Shropshire parish of Ruyton-XI-Towns) was in fact 21 year old Jane Emily Basnett. She was a second cousin once removed of the Atcherley sisters (and also a third cousin once removed). Jane had been educated at a boarding school for ladies situated almost next door to the Atcherley sisters in College Hill, Shrewsbury and she must therefore have known them well. How wonderful to find that the Atcherley sisters were maintaining such close links with their young cousins!
Six years later, the North Wales Chronicle of 30 September 1865 recorded the “Misses Alcherleys” of Shrewsbury staying at Bay’s Hill House in Clonmel Street, Llandudno. Then in August and September 1874 the Misses Atcherley – and maid – of College Hill Court, Shrewsbury were back at Aberystwyth for two to three weeks. The view of The Terrace in the photograph below dates from the 1890s, but it is probably not dissimilar to that which Anne, Hannah and Margaret would have enjoyed. Both of these trips would have been made by train. At the time of their Aberystwyth holiday of 1874, Anne and Hannah were both in their 70s and Margaret was aged 57. All three still had a few years left in them, and I hope they managed to share a few more holidays during those years.
The 1881 census was the last to feature the three Misses Atcherley, as Hannah died in 1885. It is from the years after this event that I have found evidence of some of her sister Margaret’s other interests. On 10 October 1889, Miss M. Atcherley of Shrewsbury was admitted to membership of the Evangelical Alliance, having most likely put her name forward at a meeting of that society held at Shrewsbury on 30 September. At that meeting, Mr. Arnold gave “an account of the Alliance and its work in various departments—the fostering of the spirit of brotherly love and union, the great and world-wide results of united prayer as seen in the observance of the Week of Prayer, and the blessing which God had given to the efforts of the Alliance on behalf of those who were deprived of their religious liberty.” Then, in 1892 or ’93, “a testimonial to Miss M. Atcherley, late Secretary to the Ladies Association, Shrewsbury” amounting to £9 8s. 6d. was given by her to the Church Missionary Society to support the work of its Children’s Home.
At the time of the 1891 census the two surviving Atcherley sisters were sharing their home with their widowed sister Martha Jebb, and their niece Ellen Jebb. Each of the Atcherley sisters was “living on her own means”. The extent of the Misses Atcherleys’ ‘own means’ is revealed by records resulting from their deaths: entries in the ‘National Probate Calendars’. When Hannah passed away on 18 May 1885 she had not left a will; administration of her estate was granted to Anne and Margaret. Her personal estate was valued at £3,539 6s. 4d. Anne was the next to ‘depart this life’, on 1 August 1892. Again there was no will. Administration was granted to Margaret, with Anne’s effects totalling £6140 13s. 3d. (There was a further grant of probate, to John Atcherley Jebb, in 1898 when effects of £456 were recorded.)
Unlike her sisters, Margaret Atcherley did make a will. She appointed John Atcherley Jebb and another nephew, John’s brother George Robert Jebb, as executors. Margaret died on 14 April 1898 at College Hill, her home of nearly 50 years, leaving effects of £9359 13s. 6d.
The estates of both Anne and Margaret Atcherley included shares. Records show that Anne’s Consolidated Ordinary Stock was passed on to Margaret, whose own Consolidated Ordinary and 4¼% Debenture Stocks went to her aforementioned nephews. The stocks they had purchased were quite appropriate given the sisters’ fondness for travel – the business in which they had invested was the Great Western Railway Company.
Picture credits. Stagecoach: from Aberystwyth Observer of 11 Feb 1860, at Welsh Newspapers Online; copyright status unknown but believed to be public domain. List of visitors: composite image from sections of Aberystwyth Observer, 16 July 1859, page 2, at Welsh Newspapers Online; copyright status unknown but believed to be public domain. The terrace, Aberystwyth, Wales: from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-DIG-ppmsc-07349; no known restrictions on reproduction.
 1841 census of England and Wales. Piece 918, book 1, folio 38, page 5. Weston Lulligfields.
 1851 census of England and Wales. Piece 1992, folio 477, page 28. Shrewsbury.
 1861 census of England and Wales. Piece 1873, folio 16, page 26. Shrewsbury.
 1871 census of England and Wales. Piece 2776, folio 7, page 6. Shrewsbury.
 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 2653, folio 19, page 31. Shrewsbury.
 1891 census of England and Wales. Piece 2112, folio 13, page 20. Shrewsbury.
 Frederick W Kittermaster, (1869), Shropshire Arms and Lineages, compiled from The Herald’s Visitations and Ancient MSS. Appendix, page ii. Copy viewed at Google Books.
 Baschurch, Shropshire parish register covering 1799, entry for baptism of Anne Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C03390-1, Film 510651.
 Baschurch, Shropshire parish register covering 1801, entry for baptism of Hannah Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C03390-1, Film 510651.
 Baschurch, Shropshire baptism register covering 1817, entry for baptism of Margaret Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C03390-1, Film 510651.
 Monumental inscriptions at Baschurch All Saints, Shropshire. See photos and transcriptions at MIs at Baschurch All Saints (1) and MIs at Baschurch All Saints (3).
 The marital mystery of Sarah Atcherley at Atcherley.org.uk.
 Baschurch, Shropshire marriage register covering 1831, entry for John Jebb and Martha Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and Findmypast.
 The Post Office Directory of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, and the City of Bristol. Page 747. Copy viewed at Google Books.
 E R Kelly (ed.) (1870), The Post Office Directory of Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Worcestershire. Page 135. For abstract see Directories Part 2.
 Thomas Rees (1815), The Beauties of England and Wales. Volume XVIII: South Wales. Page 415. Copy viewed at Google Books.
 Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard (1824), The new Aberystwyth guide. Pages 1 – 4, 58, and 192-3. Copy viewed at Google Books.
 Constance Everson (1984), Downward Journey: Stage Coaching in Shrewsbury 1833-1861. In: Barrie Trinder (ed.) (1984), Victorian Shrewsbury. Page 88.
 Aberystwyth Observer, 16 July 1859, page 2. Copy viewed at Welsh Newspapers Online.
 Western Mail (Cardiff), issue 7638, 10 Nov 1893. Article: The Mayors of South Wales, Portraits and biographies.
 1851 census of England and Wales. Piece 1992, folio 475, pages 24 and 25. Head: Mary Elizth Arrowsmith, unmarried, 53, governess of ladies boarding school, born Leominster, Herefordshire. Pupil: Jane Emily Basnett, 11, born Shry [= Shrewsbury, in error for Ruyton-XI-Towns]. Plus 4 teachers, 4 servants (cook & housekeeper, housemaid, 2 house servants) and 18 more pupils (girls aged 8 to 17).
 North Wales Chronicle, 30 Sep 1865, page 12.
 Aberystwyth Observer, 22 Aug 1874, page 4; 29 Aug 1874, page 4 and 5 Sep 1874, page 4.
 Evangelical Christendom. Volume 43. Nov 1889. Pages 348-9. Copy viewed at Google Books (via proxy server).
 Church Missionary Society (1893), Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society for the year 1892-93. Pages 275-7. Copy viewed at Google Books (via proxy server).
 Principal Probate Registry: Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration (1885). Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966.
 Principal Probate Registry: Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration (1892). Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966.
 Principal Probate Registry: Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration (1898). Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966.
 The Great Western Railway Shareholders Index (Volume 57 Folio 70 Entry 271). Copy viewed at Findmypast. Original document held by Society of Genealogists.
 The Great Western Railway Shareholders Index (Volume 75 Folio 7 Entry 29). Copy viewed at Findmypast. Original document held by Society of Genealogists.